Although climate activists encourage everyone to reduce their carbon footprint, it is objectively true that some people contribute more to global warming than others. In particular, the ultra-wealthy far outweigh regular people when it comes to climate impact, a fact supported by much scientific research. A new exclusive report by The Guardian found that the world’s 12 richest people, all billionaires, contribute as much to climate change as 2.1 million households.
The dozen billionaires in question are Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and French fashion billionaire Bernard Arnault, tech billionaire Michael Dell, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovitch and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of the late Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs. According to The Guardian, these twelve people together emit almost 17 million tonnes of CO22 and equivalent greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere. They do this both through their direct business activities, such as financial investments and equity investments, and through their opulent lifestyles, which include huge yachts and private jets.
“Billionaires cause obscene amounts of carbon pollution with their yachts and private jets – but that is dwarfed by the pollution caused by their investments,” Alex Maitland, inequality policy adviser at Oxfam International, told The Guardian. “Through the companies they own, billionaires emit a million times more carbon than the average person.”
This is not the first study to link extreme wealth with extreme involvement in pollution. A study published last year in the journal Cleaner Production Letters examined carbon budgets and found that wealthy people emit more greenhouse gases per person than poor people.